Evil Genius 2: World Domination

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Rebellion
Release Date: March 30, 2021


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PC Preview - 'Evil Genius 2'

by Redmond Carolipio on July 4, 2019 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Evil Genius 2: World Domination is a real-time, lair-management and world-domination simulation.

You have to admire the simplicity of something like Evil Genius 2. You take on the role of an actual supervillain and build the ideal evil lair to ward off the forces of good, typically en route to your dastardly attempt at world domination. It's a brilliantly vibrant, tongue-in-cheek take on an age-old gaming archetype that asks you to plan, strategize and execute without making it feel like you're working.

If your memory is fuzzy trying to remember the first one, it's probably because it came out back in the fall of 2004, two years after the last "Austin Powers" movie and two years before the James Bond franchise was reborn in "Casino Royale" (2006). But the foundation of megalomaniacal role-playing was laid long before then, and Evil Genius rode that wave of whimsical satire to critical acclaim.

Evil Genius 2, if we're going by the early form we saw at E3 2019, has the potential to do the same. Even in 2019, the goal is still the game, and players will have their choice of four evil genius avatars. In our demo, we were re-introduced to Maximilian, the deliciously classic-looking supervillain who will evoke the spirits of Bond bane Ernst Blofeld and Dr. Evil, down to the monocle. One new character to use is Red Ivan, a former henchman who had a terrible habit of blowing things up in the last game. Here, he's graduated to supervillain supreme.

The formula for world domination hasn't changed much in 2019 in terms of having to build and fortify your evil lair first. You have to choose what kind of "front" you'll use as face of your lair to the outside world, and for the demo, we went with the tried-and-true casino resort.

That brought us to minions, which are the lifeblood of every evil lair. There appeared to be four core tenets of lair-crafting and minionship: build, train, defend and dominate. You'll have to factor in things like barracks, torture rooms, leisure spaces with videogames to keep your minions happy, etc. If you train certain minions well enough, they can eventually graduate to specific classes, like a lieutenant or a mad scientist who can improve research and development — which then leads to better, crazier traps. Why do you need traps? To take out agents of good who inevitably try to infiltrate your lair and take you down.

One trap we got to see is a long hallway that featured a powerful fan, which blew an opposing agent through a small series of laser beams before dumping them in a tank full of sharks. That felt like the lower end of the trap spectrum, so I can only imagine what other nefarious devices await in the final version. You can also train minions to become masters of deception, hitmen, and other useful jobs that build toward your master plan. Each minion can have a randomized set of traits, which can then help you decide what to do with them, but we learned that you can get the occasional bad egg. We saw our evil mastermind dispose of a lazy and not particularly bright minion by simply shooting him to death. A small body bag pops up in the minion's place, and voila, problem solved. No more having to work around weak minions.

You can't be an evil genius without access to truly ludicrous plans, like trying to bake all of Alaska, sell off the British royal family or, god forbid, kidnap the governor of Maine.

From a gameplay standpoint, it was a treat to see how each of the minions individually carried out their specific jobs. People in the training room lifted weight and unleashed "Karate Kid" crane kicks on practice dummies, while others maintain the base or hung out in the barracks — all while people in the casino fielded actual tourists. Players appear to have a lot of flexibility in terms of building their lairs. You can merge different room types, like sticking the mess hall and the barracks together, along with figuring out what your general layout is going to be. You can't sleep on this part of the planning, as a stupidly built lair will result in a more inefficient operation and confused minions.

The vibe I got from Evil Genius 2 made me familiarize myself with the first one, and it's refreshing to see there's plenty of room for this kind of premise in today's gaming landscape. I look forward to seeing how the final product looks in 2020.

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